KINGSPORT — As communities across the region and nation marked Memorial Day with ceremonies honoring the country’s veterans, a large crowd turned out Monday for a service doing so in the Model City.
“Remembering those who gave all” was the theme of a multifaceted tribute at the Veterans Memorial at J. Fred Johnson Park.
The event was conducted by American Legion Post 3, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 979 and the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 289, with participation of American Legion Gate City Post 265 alongside Post 3 for the “three volleys and Taps.”
VVA Chaplain Lennis France delivered an invocation that asked all to “remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice” and sought God’s protection, comfort and courage each day for soldiers serving today — and the same for their families and friends — and divine guidance to the community to love and support each and every one of them.”
France also beseeched all to do likewise for all those listed as prisoners of war (POWs) or missing in action (MIA).
Remembering POW/MIAs was a focus throughout the ceremony, which included replacing the POW/MIA flag displayed at the Veterans Memorial, and presentation of the Missing Man ceremony — which uses a symbolically set table for one to help keep the plight of POW/MIAs and their families in mind.
“None of us would be here if it were not for the veterans,” Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips said. “We should thank them every day — not just on Memorial Day. This city, I hope, will always show you the support you deserve. On behalf of the city, and the entire Board of Mayor and Aldermen, I thank you.”
Guest speaker U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Keith Thompson, retired, said although his war (Vietnam) was 40 years ago, “I remember my comrades who didn’t come home, every day.”
Thompson said by his own calculations the number of American soldiers killed by wars throughout the nation’s history totals at least 1,400,000.
“That’s the population of Philadelphia,” Thompson said. “Each of those casualties was an individual ... who was born, had a childhood and grew up. An individual who had plans and dreams.”
They came in all shapes and sizes and from all sorts of different backgrounds, Thompson said.
“All served,” Thompson said. “And all expected, or hoped, to go home to their families and their lives. But it didn’t work out.”
The individual stories of many American soldiers have been lost to time, Thompson said, “But that doesn’t diminish their sacrifice. They answered the call, they did their duty and served their country.”